Lessons from The National Black Writers Conference – Part I of II

By: Mrs. Write

Mrs. Write is an independent freelance writer who occasionally contributes to the August Rose Press Blog.

So August Rose Press sent me to the National Black Writers Conference at Medgar Evers College in New York City. Despite the bumpy ride in a rented Yaris, I was excited to see what was in store for me. I found it to be an interesting mix of what is right about writing and what is wrong about writing.

But before I get to that, I wanted to point out that many people believe that since it was a Black Writers Conference, that it would be exclusively Black people in attendance. I was delighted to find a nice mix of different people and different races. Some identified as Black, some as Mixed or Bi-racial and others didn’t put a label on it. And it was refreshing. I am one of those people who does not like to be labeled as exclusively a Black writer, simply because I don’t live in an exclusively black world. The people around me have different temperaments and different lifestyles, and writing should reflect that. Just because you identify as Black doesn’t mean you have to read only Black literature, just like you don’t have to listen to only Black music. Music by Juanes and Carrie Underwood is not foreign to my ears, just like books like Twilight and the Harry Potter series aren’t foreign to yours.

But I digress, there were some writers there who were a big part of different writing movements (such as Umbra) and other writers who were very old school. Nothing wrong about being old school, but they think differently than us young folk. 

One of the most important things I noticed, was that the schism between traditionally published world and the self-published world is the same as it would be anywhere else. Some do not believe that self-published work is anything to be proud of. Being told that your work is good by a traditional publisher is the only way to go.

Many members of the older generation talked about the good-old-days and the younger generation wanted to know about how to get published now. Many members of the younger generation do not have the patience to go the traditional route, and many members of the older generation did not reflect on how they rose to prominence. There was a definite disconnect between the two.

The world of publishing has changed, and will continue to change right in front of our eyes. It is up to us, whether Black, White, Latino, Asian or Indigenous to bridge that gap between the older and younger generation. The connection between the past and the future is our best path to success.

What struggles do you have with writing? Do you talk to others about your writing experience? If so, are they writers of a different genre or the same?

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